The Métropolitain

PArt 1 of 2 - Statist Islam: A continuing challenge to civilization

Par Thomas O. Hecht le 4 novembre 2009

It would have been unlike Prof. Samuel Huntington of Harvard University to say "I told you so" after 9/11. He is too austere and serious a thinker, with a legendary career as arguably the most influential and original political scientist of the last half of the 20th century – as always, swimming against the current of prevailing opinion.

His writings in the 1990s entitled "The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of the World Order" presented a thesis that ran totally counter to the zeitgeist of the euphoria about globalization and a borderless world after the end of the cold war.

 He stated unequivocally that after the end of the cold war there would be a clash of civilizations. He inferred that soil, ethno-cultural devotion and religion-based energy would claim and define the world in conflict.

Prof. Huntington also drew a map of the world which can be described as "The West and The Rest". He recognized other less challenging civilizations – Hindu, African, Buddhist and others – but to him in the post cold war world, only the Islamic civilization would re-emerge as the nemesis to the West. He demonstrated that "Each has been the other's Other" from the time of the first Muslim invasion of Europe in the eight century of the Common Era, followed by repeated attempts to conquer the Christian lands in both West and Central Europe, and in the East with campaigns against Christian Czarist Russia. Not to be outdone, Christian powers mounted vast plundering crusades in their attempts to re-conquer their Holy sites in the East, while entertaining themselves on off days with plunder and pogroms in the Jewish parts of European cities which they crossed on the road to Jerusalem.

To Huntington, "The 20th century conflict between liberal democracy and Marxist Leninism was only a fleeting and superficial historical phenomenon compared to the continuing and deeply conflictual relations between Islam and Christianity".

 Huntington expresses – says Professor Fouad Adjami, the renowned Islamic Scholar at Johns Hopkins University – an anxiety about the will and the coherence of the West. The West neither monitors nor defends the ramparts of its free society. Islam will be and remain Islam, Huntington warned, while he was equally dubious that the West would remain true to itself and its mission of freedom, the rule of law and human rights.

 

 State and faith.

 Professor Huntington has warned us that it is indeed not his fault that we did not heed his darker vision of the world which confronts us today.

 Permit me to review the historical onslaught of Islam, from its foundation in the 7th century and its attempts to dominate the world.

Islam is a monotheist religion originating in the teachings of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, a 7th century Arab religious and political figure. The word "Islam" means submission, or the total surrender of oneself to G‑d/Allah. Muslims believe that G‑d revealed the Quran to Mohammed, G‑d's final prophet, and regard the Quran as the fundamental source of Islam.

Muslims regard Mohammed as the restorer of the original monotheist faith of Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Islamic tradition holds that Jews and Christians distorted the revelations G‑d gave to those prophets by either altering the texts, introducing a false interpretation, or both.

Here are certain thoughts presented by the great Middle Eastern scholar, Prof. Bernard Lewis, that should help us shed light on the conflict which we witness in the Middle East today but which really had its antecedents with the birth of Islam in the 7th century of the Common Era.

 Prof. Lewis states that Islam is a religiously defined civilization, comparable with Christendom. They both proselytize and  the two have challenged each other for centuries. Both Islam and Christendom share the same roots in the Judaic and Hellenistic traditions. They contain components of Hellenistic philosophy dealing with justice and morality as well as science. But in Islam and Christianity, the firm belief exists and is maintained by followers of both religions, that they are the exclusive possessors of G‑d's final truth which it is their obligation to bring to all humanity.

 Notwithstanding, Christianity found accommodation as early as in the writings of St. Augustine who recognized the concept of a state existing parallel to religion. He referred to this quote attributed to Jesus: "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and unto G‑d what is G‑d's", establishing the philosophical concept of a duality in society referred to today as Church and State.

Islam, on the other hand, has merged religion and state authority wherein the two are interwoven, and state power and authority are at the service of Allah, helping to bring Allah's word to all the infidels – Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and other non-Islamic faiths.

 

The rise of political Islam

Christian awareness of the new competing Islamic faith began almost immediately after its advent with the triumphant emergence of the new religion from its Arabian homeland and its spread Eastward to the borders of India and China, and Westward across North Africa and the Mediterranean Islands into Europe.

The subsequent Islamic penetrations of Western Europe ended with the Christian reconquest of Granada and the expulsion of Mohammedism from the Iberian Peninsula in 1492. This struggle had lasted eight centuries.

Islam also islamized parts of Russia during the various Czarist wars against Islamist Ottoman Turks, wherein an ongoing struggle between a Christian power and Islam existed. It should be emphasized that there is still an ongoing conflict between Russia and its Chechen Islamic province which continues unresolved to this day.

Muslim advances into Europe created Muslim occupations of the Balkans and South Central Europe including Budapest for close to 200 years. At a later date, the Ottoman Turks were defeated at the gates of Vienna on two occasions, the last defeat being final in 1683, when  Emperor Leopold I of Austria imported a French general by the name of Prince Eugene of Savoy who defeated with finality the Muslim Turks led by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent.

At the height of its power, the Ottoman Empire spanned three continents, controlled much of South Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. It stretched from the Straights of Gibraltar, including the Atlantic Coast of Morocco in the West to the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf in the East, and from the edge of Austria, including Hungary and parts of the Ukraine in the North, to Sudan and as far as Yemen in the South.

It came to an end progressively through a series of wars against various European/Christian powers, and the Ottoman Empire dissolved into modern-day Turkey as its remnant after World War I.

 Therefore, repeated conquests stretching over a millennium are the antecedents to the rebirth of the compelling struggle on the part of Islam to control parts of the world, with Jihad, or its modern manifestation – international terrorism – as its tool to achieve a Muslim world and convert all infidels, meaning all non-Muslim.

Prof. Lewis also has specifically stated that it is manifestly wrong for political reasons to state that we are engaged in a war against terrorism. This is as if Churchill had told us we were engaged in a war against submarines. Terrorism, like submarines were a tactic, is not the enemy. The enemy, Prof. Lewis has said, is Islamism, which he placed as the third in a sequence of ideological deformations that have taken place in his lifetime, the first two being Bolshevism and Nazism. Prof. Lewis suggests that one way to deal with Islamism is to mobilize Muslims themselves – or is this wishful thinking when our own hesitation is clearly interpreted as our weakness.

 

 Today’s political realities

Now, let's address today's political realities in the light of what has historically impacted the course of time. Let me quote the so-called current convential wisdom, which is reinforced by the outpouring in the media by so-called reasonable "experts", that Islam is actually just another religion of peace, and that the vast majority of Muslims just want to live in peace.

 This all may be true, but in light of the Muslim terrorist acts that we regularly witness – from Bali to New York, in the Northern Chinese provinces, from Mumbai to Madrid – the reference to the religion of peace becomes questionable. It clouds the issue and may make us feel optimistic while somehow diminishing the specter of the fanatics who rampage the globe in the name of Islam.

The fact is that, today, it is fanatics who rule Islam at this moment in history. Their impact on everyday people manifested itself openly with the celebrations, in July 2008, surrounding the release from an Israeli jail of the child murderer Kuntar. He gained immediate national hero status in the Muslim world, echoed equally in utterances by the allegedly peace-loving Abu Mazen, the president of the Palestinian Authority, an alleged peacemaker in the eyes of the West – the former Number 2 to Arafat for decades - and the author of a PhD thesis on Holocaust denial at Moscow University. The release of the convicted Libyan terrorist from a Scottish jail for compassionate reasons in August 2009, and his jubilant welcome in Libya, is a further manifestation of the climate of fanaticism which prevails in Islamic societies.

Let us bear in mind that it is fanatics from the Muslim world who daily slaughter children and non-Arab Muslim tribal groups in Darfur, and are progressively taking over segments of Africa, be it Nigeria or the Somali lands. It is Islamic fanatics who bomb, behead, murder or honor kill. It is the fanatics who stone rape victims and homosexuals. It is the Muslim fanatics who teach in the schools the value of being a shahid – a martyr – when becoming suicide bombers.

The peaceful majority in Muslim lands is cowed into a non-existent force.